Action Reaction

March 7, 2016 at 7:48 pm | Posted in Guild Wars 2, mmorpg, PvE | 2 Comments
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Recently Arenanet did a full blitz of the Guild Wars 2 subreddit where they held an AMA, Ask Me Anything. There were loads of questions, and a surprising amount of openness to things I had wondered about for months, even years. I haven’t posted in a while, but I still play Guild Wars 2 heavily and the AMA prompted me to give my reactions.

I’ll pick out the stuff I find interesting, quote it, respond to it, and skip over the rest, but you can find a great summary here.

The main body of the introduction to the AMA is actually pretty interesting.

The news is that I’m taking over as the game director of Guild Wars 2 for a while. Colin will be leaving us.

Mike O is actually pretty experienced, I would imagine, having worked at Blizzard and had a heavy hand in the original Guild Wars. I’m sure he’ll be fine until a new game director is found. A lot of people seem to be reacting badly to Colin’s departure, but I always felt that maybe the community latched onto him a bit much. He seems like a nice enough guy but company turnover is normal, I don’t see any reason to see this as negative. There’s a lot of speculation as to whether he’s joining the new Amazon game studio where other former Arenanet employees have shown up but Colin doesn’t seem to be indicating that himself.

An opportunity came up that allows me to see my family far more, support my wife on a project she is tackling after years of her supporting me, and a chance to cut my commute down to zero from an epic commute I have today.

Of course the big news in the main post are some timelines for upcoming content.

After the April update, we’ll start live beta-tests of improvements to WvW

So it sounds like the long awaited WvW content is coming but post April, and from other questions surrounding WvW it will probably deal with population redistribution and rewards. Other things that may come soon are…

Working on layout improvements in the Desert Borderlands, like simplifying navigation, reducing line of sight blockers, reducing/eliminating critical choke points, reducing lethal fall locations, etc.

And then further in the timeline.

Further on, we’ll launch the next raid wing in May or June, then Living World and the next quarterly update.

Living World can’t come soon enough for some people but June/July seems reasonable to me. Heart of Thorns should have placated and tided people over until season 3 can begin, unless you’re some kind of impossible to please man-child or something.

But what is more interesting to me from these few opening paragraphs is that we got hard numbers on how many people are working on each part of the game. This has been a repeated argument I’ve had with various people so I’m glad to finally see definitive numbers that land squarely in my favour.

We have about 120 devs working on the live game, 70 devs on Expac2, and 30 devs on core teams that support both.

Even when they mentioned a while back that the Season 2 team was around 30 people, various people told me that they didn’t have enough devs to work on an expansion. This was Pre HoT announcement. So nice to be entirely vindicated.

And we get a good idea of the number of teams and what they’re working on.

For example on Live we have the PvP team, the WvW team, the Fractals team, the Raids team, the Living World team, the Legendaries team, and a couple others.

Good to know there’s an actual fractal team, I expect updates may be coming at least as often as raids, though the raids team was probably created for HoT development, and it sounds like fractals came later.

And in response to one anonymous yet handsome commenter we even get to see the approximate size of an individual team.

with Salvation Pass, we had only about 5-6 people working on it full time for 4 months. A few others assisted with their time for a week here, or a month there

I think this is interesting because we can maybe make some educated guesses as to the size of other teams, like the fractal team for example. Raids are kind of a big feature at the moment, so perhaps that team is a bit larger than the fractal team but I’d imagine they’re similar. Game development is a time intensive process, and they can never produce enough content to keep up with how fast players consume it, but I’m still glad to see some actual numbers on team size.

But yeah, back to fractals for a second.

we’ve de-linked the backpack from Fractal Leaderboards so we can release it sooner rather than later.

People have been waiting on the legendary backpack so maybe that will come out soon. Good thing they’re decoupling it from the leaderboards too considering they can’t even get the Adventure leaderboards or any leaderboards working properly.

And it sounds to me like they’re going to ditch swamptals as soon as possible.

We want to incentivize players to play all of our Fractals, not just the shortest/easiest ones. We have several ideas on how to tackle this, starting with changing how the Daily Achievements work.

‘Swamps of the Mists’ is definitely not ideal. I think the main driver behind this is how the Daily Achievements are structured, so we’re currently looking into reworking those to encourage players to play all of our different Fractals.

Seems like the dailies will be changed so it won’t just be 3 fractals of your choice.

And hey, the fractal backpiece will be a glider skin.

Idzids – …a lot of people are speculating that the fractal backpiece will be a glider since the PvP one was, were there any plans of doing the same for the fractal backpiece?

Anet_sean – Yes.

Moving on to dungeons, I was surprised to see Mike O admit that maybe the dungeon nerf was unnecessary.

Simple answer, yes. We didn’t need to nerf dungeons like that. But we also don’t have a dungeons team to keep dungeons updates. So that’s the dilemma.

Guild Wars 2 is a big game with a lot of dev needs. My personal focus is to ensure that we do a great job of anything we choose to do. I’m all about doing fewer things and doing them better. So we have no current plan to staff a dungeons team; no free developers to staff one with.

I appreciate that they don’t have the developers to work on dungeons, I get it, it just flabbergasts me that they put devs on nerfing them, but not on improving them. At least they’re reconsidering the rewards?

given the reaction, we are taking a second look at the current dungeon rewards.

Looks like there’s going to be improvements to HoT as well.

With HoT we leaned more heavily on the organized content unfortunately at the cost of more casual experience. This is something that we plan on making adjustments to and are taking into account as we develop maps in the future.

I guess the question is how do they make adjustments to that? Make some of the events more soloable? Adjust scaling? New events? Virtually every event in the HoT zones is tied to meta so making any adjustment means taking into account the whole thing.

Glad to hear this one.

Availability of Adventures is absolutely something we are addressing for the April release!

Most of the adventures are an unqualified success in my mind, so I’m glad that the one thing holding them back is being addressed. I don’t think I should ever be prevented from getting an adventure going. Annoying that it’s even a thing.

This is pretty good too.

HoT daily achievements were overlooked during development. Expect to find these and some of their friends in an upcoming release.

I was actually really surprised when HoT was not included in any daily achievements. I predicted this as a thing at launch. Seems like common sense to me. What does that comment about “some of their friends” mean? Are we going to see Raid dailies? Dungeon dailies?

I don’t know how to feel about this one.

There are some improvements in obtaining the new HoT gear in April, though I don’t believe they will completely resolve this issue. This is one of my main goals for Living World Season 3 rewards.

The cost and time to make some gear verges on the ridiculous. Full ascended gear for my raiding friends keeps them permanently poor, especially when a small nerf here or there greatly effects which stat sets they have to outfit themselves with. Hundreds of gold is spent to keep their builds competitive, and it is so much harder to make gear for the stat sets that Arenanet never fully supported or gated behind time barriers.

Legendaries. Don’t get me started.

What I can say is that we are working towards completing the entire set of 16 HoT legendary weapons (sorry underwater). Of the 13 left, they are all in various stages of concept, modeling and design, but the two that are furthest along in development are the Short Bow and the Mace.

Okay. I’m started. Are you fucking kidding me? Did the Legendaries team just get created briefly before launch? Because we’re closing on 5 months since HoT and 3 legendaries have been released. As something that was promoted as being apart of HoT, I guess I expected more. Arenanet really fell down on this one. Not to mention, the shortbow and mace are almost done? Because those are the most sought after and used weapons I guess?

We do think there is a problem with amalgamated gemstones, but it’s somewhat complicated and we’re still looking at the best way to address it.

I saved up orbs for years before HoT launched. I was near maximum storage of orbs, I had donated some emerald and some opal. I still needed to buy hundreds to complete my amalgamated gemstones. This isn’t that complicated in my opinion. Reduce the number of orbs required.

Here’s a couple things about Living World Season 3.

Living World Season 3 will require players to have purchased HoT, since the story picks up from the end of HoT.

I’m fine with this. Seems fair. How else would they encourage f2p players to buy the game?

Living World Season 3 should open some avenues for non-raiders to gear up with ascended equipment. This should also allow non-raiders to get the gear/stat combinations that are currently only available in the raids, like jewelry with the new HoT combinations.

So I imagine this will be a lot like Season 2 rewards, if not exactly the same. Recipes will be thrown at your head like baseballs in a batting pit and ascended jewelry from achievement rewards.

And there’s a ton of PvP and WvW stuff that I don’t really care about. Glad Arenanet did the AMA, mostly a good talk, only provoked me to rage once or twice. Hope the openness continues in the future.

Dungeoneer

October 30, 2015 at 1:01 pm | Posted in Dungeons, Guild Wars 2, mmorpg, PvE | Comments Off on Dungeoneer
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I have a rival. Someone who pushes me to complete achievements, to raise my world experience in WvW, to increase my wealth, to even increase my account bound magic find percentage. Lately she’s been (at least pre-HoT anyway) on the warpath to complete Dungeoneer, a title acquired by attaining every single dungeon skin from all 8 dungeons. As such I’ve been spending a lot of time in them lately and been thinking about Guild Wars 2’s dungeons a lot.

One of the things my rival brought up recently is that Guild Wars 2’s dungeons, while flawed, are actually some of the best dungeons in the MMO industry. What makes them great is the amount of variety. Each path varies in difficulty, length, strategy, story, visuals and yes, exploits. That variety makes Guild Wars 2 dungeon paths far more repeatable.

Think about it. Every other MMO has dungeons that do not change. Worse, most MMOs I’ve ever played make low level dungeons redundant and useless. There’s no point to going back to low level dungeons and repeating end game dungeons is nauseatingly familiar, a terrible grind.

Even if only slightly in some cases (Crucible of Eternity) GW2’s dungeons always have differences, and those differences make dungeon grinding more bearable and the rewards are skins and gold that are always going to be worth going for no matter what level you are.

I don’t deny that these dungeons have big flaws with exploits, unintended behaviour, simplistic boss fights, and players taking advantage of every tiny time saving cheese possible, but in all honesty I still think we’ve got it better than a lot of other games. I think some players take our dungeons for granted, but what’s really disappointing is that Arenanet doesn’t appreciate what they have either.

It’s been pretty clear that they’ve had no intention of supporting dungeons for a very long time. The last major change to dungeons was the Aetherpath of Twilight Arbor, a Living Story addition in October of 2013 that essentially sounded the death knell for dungeons. It’s a fairly difficult path, especially the oozes in the beginning, and as a result a lot of people got discouraged. Arenanet saw the low activity numbers and hasn’t devoted a moment to the upkeep of dungeons since. Add to that the daily rewards for fractals but not dungeons, and the removal of the 8 unique dungeon vendors for one guy off in corner and you begin to see a pattern.

Unfortunately that’s not all. Dungeon rewards have been nerfed as of the launch of Heart of Thorns.

As the game progressed, we shifted focus from dungeons to fractals and raids, and we firmly believe that fractals and raids are the content that we want to continue to support. As a part of that process, we’ll shift some rewards away from dungeons and into other pieces of content.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not that money hungry and I’ll probably still do dungeons. But Arenanet’s neglect of one of my favourite parts of the game was already a problem for me.

They are actually pretty open about their reasoning.

The goals for reducing currency in dungeons are not entirely economic in reasoning, we’re shifting where we focus our resources and we’re focusing rewards where we’ll focus our own development.

Personally I think if the reason isn’t economic, this shouldn’t be happening. Why would you undermine one thing to promote another? They are actively sabotaging content to ensure the success of other content. Shouldn’t the success of raids and the fractal update be based on their own merits?

To add to that, their focus is hardly shifting since they didn’t have any focus on dungeons to begin with. As I’ve noted dungeons have been collecting dust for 2 years and fractals have received one major update since their release (November 2013) and one wing of one raid comes out in a couple weeks. It’s not as though resources are going to waste.

Also rewards from raids are limited to once a week and the issues I have with fractals (the point of allowing us to salvage our rings was to let us make money, so charging 1g per salvage is a kick in the face) and I don’t see how this fixes anything.

The nerfs are pretty staggering. Roughly, you now get about 1/3rd of the gold and 1/3rd the experience from a dungeon run.

This reminds me of Super Adventure Box in a lot of ways. Arenanet knows best so they’re going to tell us what we like to play. Maybe I won’t bother getting Dungeoneer after all. What would that title even mean? That I’ve toiled away at something that Arenanet actively discourages and disincentivizes? That I worked hard at something for little reward? That I love something despite how deeply it’s been undermined and ignored?

I’m not asking for the world, I’m just saying maybe stop dumping on dungeons Arenanet, they’re way better than you give them credit for.

Twitchcon and Arenanet Television

September 24, 2015 at 9:12 pm | Posted in Guild Wars 2, mmorpg | 2 Comments
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anettv

So we’re finally getting more details about what is going on at twitchcon and what exactly the big deal about Arenanet Television is. While me and my friends had speculated on a more permanent relationship with community streamers perhaps, or more regularly scheduled Arenanet shows similar to Points of Interest, it looks more like a simple one-off at twitchcon, 16 hours of shows over the weekend where they’ll make announcements, review Heart of Thorns material, and generally talk about the game.

Oh and a live musical performance with Maclaine Diemer, a cooking show called A Taste of Tyria hosted by Jennifer Hale, and a trivia based game show hosted by someone from The Nerdist.

Wut.

There’s plenty of discussion about the schedule and information over on reddit, but I did want to go over a few things myself.

Friday, September 25

Starting Out in Guild Wars 2
First Look at the Ranger Elite Profession Specialization
Musical Performance
“A Taste of Tyria” with Jennifer Hale
Adventures in Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns
Premiere of the Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns Launch Trailer
PvP Discussion
WvW Discussion
Masteries
Skill Balance Preview
And more!

Saturday, September 26

Designing Raids in Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns
Returning to Guild Wars 2
Making of the Launch Trailer
Legendary Journey
“A Taste of Tyria” with Jennifer Hale
Story Missions
Intro to PvP
Heart of Thorns Maps
Community Showcase Live
Voice Acting in Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns: Behind the Scenes
And more!

First look at the druid, launch of a new trailer, we finally get to see more adventures, some people go ape for skill balance previews, the raid discussion should be interesting, I’m definitely tuning in for Legendary Journey, and I think calling them Story Missions (gw1 was all about Story Missions) is confusing. Seems like a fair amount of things to look forward to, lots of game related stuff that people are definitely going to be interested in.

I’m a little less enthusiastic about things that fall outside actual gaming content, but I’m not going to cast aspersions about a musical performance, Guild Wars 2 has some great scoring and people are into that. Nor will I criticize the cooking show, for I am a big fan of Jennifer Hale (I thought she did fine at the Heart of Thorns announcement during PAX South and some people were just dicks about it) and as a human I have to eat food. And lets face it as nerds we either live long enough to win the trivia game or we die trying.

That said I do feel apprehension. There’s a little potential for things to be received negatively here. I made note of this on last night’s Guild Wars Reporter in between technical difficulties. Allona even made me feel better about the cooking show because she has a theory that they’ll announce ascended cooking on the show, which would be awesome, but I am not optimistic about it. My apprehension remained however and I even made reference to a certain taxi related incident.

And then today I was looking through a PR email and read that Arenanet was working with iam8bit to create content for twitchcon. Something I had glossed over yesterday when I originally got the email. So I immediately googled Iam8bit. The taxi people.

A appreciate the effort to not just be a boring, predictable, stagnant, presentation that nobody will care about or be excited to watch. And I really do hope this turns out well.

HoT Prep

September 23, 2015 at 10:33 pm | Posted in Guild Wars 2, mmorpg, PvE | Comments Off on HoT Prep
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I’ve been preparing for Heart of Thorns since before they even announced the expansion for Guild Wars 2, so if you’re just starting to prepare now, well, you’re late. That doesn’t mean you can’t get started, there’s still 1 month to go so let’s review some things you might want to do.

Specializations

HoT has elite specializations for every profession. One thing I think people are overlooking is that a specialization and the skills that come with it are going to require hero points, formerly skill points. A normal core specialization requires 60 hero points to unlock everything in the trait line, HoT specializations are ‘elite’ so they may end up costing more. Additionally each elite specialization unlocks a new skill type. Current skill types can require as many as 20 hero points.

You’ll have to take into consideration which characters you want to make the switch to the new specialization and how much time you have to devote to tracking down hero points. I didn’t see any hero points in the beta, but it seems likely that there would be some hero points available in the new HoT maps, so that should be taken into consideration as well.

I don’t recommend map completion until after HoT releases. Collecting the hero points is fine, but the xp from completion and new ‘map rewards’ should probably be saved for afterward to help progression in mastery lines. It’s a bit of a toss up between having day 1 hero points and whether you need instant mastery progress and the gift of exploration.

guildhall_07

Guild Halls

The little we know about how to unlock various parts of Guild Halls suggests large amounts of materials will be required. The screen shot above is suggestive of mithril, silk, and 10 slot iron boxes, but nothing is set in stone yet and we don’t know precisely what those materials would be used for.

You might also consider, you know, being in a guild. One with the stated intention of claiming a Guild Hall and doing related guild activities, not to mention raids. If you’re in a smaller guild, it might mean joining a larger guild to familiarize yourself with how guild halls work so you can contribute to your smaller guild’s efforts.

If you’re in control of a guild, banners and upgrades will not go to waste (they’ll be grandfathered in) but I would consider building up as much stuff as possible with influence as there seems to be a daily limit of how much influence can be transferred over to the new Guild Hall system. Banners, upgrades, whatever.

Materials

There is going to be a big drain on materials which will likely cause massive price spikes so you might want to start gathering and buying them now. A variety of materials spanning the breadth of what Tyria has to offer is probably your best bet.

Gathering is time intensive so doing a little bit every play session makes sense. You’ll need materials to craft all the new gear for your revenant, crafting new skins, mystic forge recipes, Guild Halls as mentioned above, and the new crafting profession Scribe will also need materials.

I’ve saved up ectos, laurels to buy t6 materials, orichalcum, ancient wood, leather, all manner of trees and ore. I could probably be doing more to save up various cloth but it’s just about the only thing where I have to actively go out and farm.

If you’re going to buy materials, buy them now. Especially anything related to making legendaries. Precursor crafting is going to be all the rage so the materials necessary to craft those precursors into legendaries are going to skyrocket in price. Think lodestones, mystic coins, ectos, and any number of other possible items. You’ll know more if you have a particular legendary in mind and then go wiki what you need to make it. I personally expect the recipes for old legendaries to not change much at all aside from the precusor crafting.

Revenant

I’m not going to level my revenant naturally. So I’ll need 78 scrolls (leaving the tutorial levels you up) of knowledge or any combination of experience scrolls.

You’ll need gear and weapons. Saving up some Pristine Fractal Relics, Guild Commendations, and Laurels should have you set for Ascended jewelry, but I think it would be wise to hold off on ascended armour and weapons until solid builds are established for the revenant. Exotic weapons and armour will probably go up in price so consider buying now. Personally I might look into buying a WvW set since they seem to be changing those sets into salvageable gear.

The main thing you should look into is what runes and sigils you want for your revenant. Gear will probably never spike too high, but runes and sigils have a high chance of rising in price.

Foods, skins, and any number of other things are probably going to spike as well. I always keep some kind of high-level food and potion around so decide what you’re going to be doing with your revenant and outfit him appropriately before HoT launches.

Let’s not forget elite specializations which unlock new weapons for each profession. You’ve probably got a much better idea of what will look good on your current characters than on your non-existant revenant, so go buy what you need for skins.

WvW

Consider leveling up world xp a bit. There is going to be a nerf to a few of the world abilities and a refunding of points so I’m looking forward to maxing out some things I’ve never been able to before. With the release of the new borderlands map and the new features I’ll probably be playing WvW a bit more.

On a side note, the borderlands jumping puzzles are going away. The new borderlands maps won’t have them and there are achievement points tied to each one coordinated by colour. If you want those achievement points at all, it’s time to find a guide and head out.

PvP

I’m not much of a PvPer and in all honesty don’t give a fig about Stronghold. That said a smart move might be to save up your pvp potions and then use them on new reward tracks that are released with HoT. That should give you a head start on some of the cooler skins and loot.

Masteries

Right now xp essentially does nothing after level 80. After HoT releases you’ll need xp to progress each mastery line. Save up anything that boosts xp, in particular guild banners, boosters, guild buffs, and anything else you can get your hands on. Foods and potions also buff xp gain remember.

Karma could also come into play with masteries as well. The Pact mastery will allow you to buy things from certain merchants partially with karma. Veterans likely have lots of karma, but with the recent lack of karma boosters new players and returning players might have more trouble building up karma, so consider saving it up.

So there you have it. 30 days until HoT. Lots of unknowns but hopefully this post covers what we do know and can prepare for. I’m personally hoping that my last post doesn’t bear fruit, and in fact some of the things I’ve commented on have been addressed. My hopes are still a bit mixed but I am excited to have other things to do in HoT and an absolute ass ton of quality of life fixes.

Consistently Inconsistent

July 23, 2015 at 12:04 am | Posted in Guild Wars 2, mmorpg, PvE | 21 Comments
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I’ve been thinking this post over for years, and yet it’s still hard to put into words. Arenanet is consistent in its inconsistency. That is to say that they repeatedly and frustratingly introduce things and then never touch them again, never adjust them, never support them, never standardize how to acquire an item or worst of all they only briefly make them available and they’re never seen again. They set the groundwork for something, make a show of it, and then don’t follow through. It’s a combination of neglect and lack of foresight.

Activities, dungeon revamps, guild missions, new world bosses, they come in to being and then are left to rot. If they’re not super popular they are ignored. Forget that they’re unpopular because the implementation is off, or the difficulty is weird, or the rewards are subpar. If it’s not a huge hit, move on to the next idea and pretend like nothing happened. The rewards for Guild Trek are terrible, so nobody does them, so Arenanet never touches them again. A child with ADD that is consistently moving on to the next project and forgetting the old one.

And then there’s the sloppy implementation as well. The problem stems, I think, from the experience that Arenanet wanted us all to have in that first year or two of the game. They wanted unique one-time experiences that forced players to log in because it was only available for 2 weeks, maybe a month, or one night only. We could debate the success of those updates, Living Story S1 was epic and yet so temporary, but I’d like to talk more about the legacy of incomplete features left behind.

I’ll start with the small stuff.

One example of sloppy implementation is the Superior Sigil of Generosity. A very rare drop during Wintersday 2013 so if you want one, you’ll need a time machine or 130 gold because since then it has never appeared anywhere but the trading post, the price is astronomical. I don’t think I’d even be annoyed if they would have bothered to return it in Wintersday 2014 but no such forethought. I’m not sure what happened, maybe it was overlooked, or perhaps they decided to not include it due to it being slightly overpowered, but either way it was a mistake. You don’t introduce something without a long term plan to make it available to anyone who wants to get it. If it’s OP you nerf it, if it’s a forgotten item you find some way to include it. That’s why the Superior Sigil of Bursting and the Azurite Orb annoy me. Neither has been easily available since they were introduced 2 years ago. I’d love to get my hands on either. Not feasible unless I just want to throw money at it.

Then there are celestial stats. The hoops you have to jump through for this stat set are ridiculous and yet it is a popular stat set that even Arenanet throws at you in the Beta tests. I’m not a fan of the stat but I’d probably experiment with it more if it didn’t take a month to put all the charged quartz together. Ridiculously time gated nonsense and there’s no reason for it. An exotic celestial set should not be time gated, especially where later stat sets like Sinister aren’t time gated because although they include charged quartz it is apart of charged sheets of ambrite which can simply be bought.

tribal

And the skins. I think the skins point more to neglect for me. Multiple skins have been removed from PvP including the Tribal skin set with no explanation given. How about the Decorative Molten Jetpack skin. Available only twice briefly, now selling for 3500 gold. It’s great to have goals Anet but “make a bazillion gold” is a terrible effing goal. I personally want both the Dreamthistle Greatsword skin and the Super Warhorn skin. One is unobtainable except via the trading post for 1400g because the Gem Store overlords removed the set around a year ago and I (mostly) refuse to play their filthy RNG Black Lion Chest game, and the other is unavailable except via the auction house for 1500g because Super Adventure Box hasn’t returned in, what, a year and a half?

Super Adventure Box is a whole other giant cluster… bomb. I mean I could go on about the Infinite Continue Coin, or how SAB should be regularly available especially during long dry spells of no content, but I’ll leave my complaints brief. I realize reintroducing Super Adventure Box isn’t like flipping a switch, that it would take work. And yes, they’re hard at work on an expansion, I understand that’s why we’re in such a long drought. But holy crap when was the last time it was even available? Where’s the Queen’s Jubilee right now? Where’s Dragon Bash? Where’s WvW Tournaments? Neglecting the rest of the game is getting out of hand. A redesigned Lion’s Arch is great, but it was long overdue and left me content for about a week. I was bred on bi-weekly Guild Wars 2 updates.

Dungeons in general. I’m sure the dungeon community is smaller than just about any other community in Guild Wars 2 but the amount of neglect is staggering. No new dungeon paths, no new dungeons, no improvements, no bug fixes, no dungeon team, nothing. Fractals is rumoured to be seeing an update with the expansion but it’s fairly neglected too. It took years for them to fix the terrible drop rate above level 40, the skins still come at random with no way to get the skin you want. You can’t do anything with the ungodly amount of rings you rack up if you play a lot. There have been no new fractals in some time and I don’t predict any for some time to come. I feel like the removal of the 8 dungeon vendors that were compiled into one was like the final slap in the face. We don’t have time to move your vendors around or give them a special space to indicate their prestige and unique skins so take this generic npc standing in the middle of nowhere with no indicator of who he is or where he is on the map okay bye.

Ascended jewelry crafting has reached a level of jaw dropping disbelief with me. How could this still not be introduced? The ascended crafting materials for jewelry have been in the storage panel for literally years. Left blank and empty. Sure you can get jewelry through multiple other means but half the stat sets are some LSD inspired nonsense. Why do more than half the jewelry pieces from vendors have useless stats? Why can’t I just make my own (game normalized and standardized) stat sets? Neglected, ignored, inconsistent. Even the achievements for maxing out ascended crafting professions completely leave out jewelry or cooking.

Then there are skills like Antitoxin Spray. The only skill added to the game since 2013 has been completely removed. No real explanation why (that I know of) and no refund on the hundreds of skill points I must have sunk into it. It wasn’t overpowered. It wasn’t completely useless. I can’t even guess as to why you would remove it. Every possible explanation gets shot down in my head. The only other new skills added since launch were one new heal skill per profession. 9 skills in 3 years and one of them was removed.

Of course it ain’t all doom and gloom. The expansion is coming and with that, new maps for WvW and I hope a new tournie. Some kind of update for fractals, there is a mastery line for fractals so I would assume something to go along with that. They did at one point include a bunch of items only found in S1 of Living Story on the laurel NPC. I don’t *really* need ascended jewelry crafting. Guild Halls seem to also be a revamp for Guild Missions as well so maybe those will be fixed up or new ones introduced. Hey I can be optimistic and positive!

I’m sure a lot of problems will be fixed with the expansion but when I hear them say they’re laying the groundwork for future features…

This expansion pack is all about laying the groundwork; the features that we need in place so that we can build that new character progression and new challenging content for years to come.”

I just shake my head. I can’t have any faith in those words because in my opinion when those words have been used previously they have just plain not been true. Here’s a great example. Arenanet talking about laying the groundwork for future Guild Missions about a month after the launch for Guild Missions.

It wasn’t enough to simply add some content for guilds to play and then call it done, we wanted to build the groundwork for future teams so they could extend and improve guild missions with relative ease.

Two years later they haven’t been touched (go ahead and call me out if there are new guild missions in the expansion) and that’s not my only example.

Arenanet introducing the champ bags.

As we go on with our project of updating our existing dungeons, we’ll monitor the changes to paths and update the rewards accordingly.

Which was said while they would have been working on Aetherpath, which launched a month later. Aetherpath was the last content update to dungeons, 2 years ago.

Hey I love Guild Wars 2, I appreciate the hard work Arenanet puts in. I paid 100 bucks for the expansion. I’m all in. But I need and want consistency.

Lion’s Architecture

June 24, 2015 at 7:39 pm | Posted in Guild Wars 2, mmorpg | 1 Comment
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gw005

I logged into Lion’s Arch yesterday and was completely surprised. I try to be reasonable with my expectations. I knew Arenanet was looking to rebuild the city but there was no use getting my hopes up if all it amounted to was a few new buildings and some minor adjustments. I didn’t know what to expect so I didn’t let my imagination run wild. Even when they started to release concept art that showed vast changes to the Lion’s Arch of old, I held back any enthusiasm.

Lion’s Arch in the original Guild Wars left something to be desired. I could never imagine that people actually lived and worked there. It was a settlement at best, but never felt like a city to me. 250 years later Lion’s Arch felt much improved in the sense of feeling lived in, and it certainly had a pirate aesthetic, something straight out of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World. But I always felt it lacked something more. Here was the central city of the Tyrian continent, a megapolis that took in all comers, no matter the race, the creed, or guild. Yet there was little splendour, little wonder. A charming pirate shanty town that reminded me of Bree in middle earth, but not Minas Tirith. Not a center of commerce or important strategic target for the enemies of Tyria.

And now it has that sense. A sprawling city, filled to the brim with hidden nooks and crannies, it’s not just some rehashed version of the old city. Completely redesigned architecture, layout, aesthetic. The old Lion’s Arch had me wondering if those rickety docks could handle large amounts of cargo, the new Lion’s Arch has a lobster.

I’m loving the inspiration behind all this. It feels like 15th century london, particularly with buildings lining the bridge, and every city should have alleyways and dead ends. The ambient NPC dialogue is abundant with new and old characters to eavesdrop on just about everywhere you go. The defenses seem significant, the various organizations, from the consortium to the vigil seem to have actual space to work in, and by god does the center of the city feel open and beautiful. I even put Necronomnomnomicon straight to work. The consortium’s taxes aren’t going to consult themselves.

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I love the jumping puzzle and I love the karka hunt. Amazing how little real content Arenanet can put into a patch to whip up my hunger to play Guild Wars 2. The last 6 months have been pretty dead, but I’ve played for hours on end the past two days. The JP stretches all over the new LA, just when you think they’ve done every last variation on how to do a jumping puzzle they throw in something new. The hatchling hunt is fun too, and doing both these activities without resorting endlessly to a guide made it that much more fun.

I have but two quibbles. I felt like the Guild Initiative headquarters was far too much like the old Lion’s Arch, not matching up with the new look, and partially based on the old bank. Also, I have this thing about names.

Quibbles aside, Lion’s Arch is looking great. If this is what Arenanet can do with one city I have renewed enthusiasm for Heart of Thorns.

Brinkmanship

May 31, 2015 at 2:23 am | Posted in Guild Wars 2, mmorpg, PvE | Comments Off on Brinkmanship
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I was invited to the beta and have spent the past couple days knocking things around in my head. I find a lot of criticism after a beta is pretty unjustified. I mean it’s a beta, yet some of the biggest complaints I saw were about how events didn’t work or scale properly. No shit guys. Way to contribute helpful information.

Okay so, my biggest complaints are that events didn’t work right and didn’t scale properly. I joke, but these were two issues I did run into. The event in the Itzel chain where you drop eggs to draw the attention of the wyverns in the Zintl camp (the camp could use some fleshing out, such a flat and sparse area with only a few signs of habitation on the sides, made it feel empty) stalled out twice for me, once on the southeast and once on the southwest. There were a lot of people there but at some point the event just stopped registering that we had dropped enough eggs. As a result that chain stopped moving and as far as I know that was how you unlocked the wyvern boss fight so I didn’t get to it during the beta.

That was a disappointment, but, I did enjoy myself greatly.

As usual Arenanet has produced a very beautiful map. There is always something to look at, something to slow down and just stare at. And with the addition of gliding I’m not doing that from all new angles. I can’t wait to be in the air for longer periods just for staring. I think the first thing I did when gliding was finally unlocked was to go grab the mastery points near where you zone in to Verdant Brink. I jumped off and glided along and immediately forgot what I was doing, landing nowhere near where I had intended. I circled back and got to the mastery point pictured below.

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I’m not sure if you’re supposed to land higher than I did or if the commune just isn’t situated correctly, but I saw at least a dozen people getting this skill point in an unorthodox way. You had to jump up close enough to get the menu option, hit F for the split second it was available, then choose the option to commune. I don’t think I saw anyone land directly on top of the point to be able to commune normally.

But those are technical problems that will be fixed at some point I’m sure.

If I had any other real problems it was probably a lack of flavour. No NPCs explaining what is what. No lore to speak of, just place names. When you did run into NPCs they almost seemed out of place and had nothing to say, but there were large areas where it seemed like nothing was really going on. I’m sure Arenanet has plans to fill that all in, NPCs with information on adventures, random Pact members telling their story, events that fill in the gaps. But as of right now there is little to no flavour.

I like the events in Verdant Brink, there was a nice breadth to them, more diverse use of the event style, but I also felt they were too linear. One event begins, takes place, which leads to the next. Event chains are nothing new, but as far as the beta went the 2 daytime event chains and the night events were the only things going on. If there was an event in an area, it was the only event within quite a distance, and everyone in the area would be there. They had remarkably good directions on the mini-map for getting people around but it didn’t feel like I had any other option but to follow those directions.

I did one series of events near the Itzel village and it did not go well. We were supposed to protect 3 hunter NPCs that go out for food. At first this is fine but then champions start spawning and DINOSAURS(!) start spawning and the dinos do this charge thing that would one hit kill the NPCs. After they die you get another shot at it, just in another location, and then another shot when that fails, and another. I guess the problem was scaling, as in the NPCs didn’t.

That was probably the most annoying thing that happened during the whole beta, and that includes not figuring out the mastery UI for ages, not getting to the wyvern world boss, jumping off a cliff once I thought I had gliding unlocked (I didn’t) and other assorted scaling issues like trying to save pact soldiers in the jungle (at night soldiers spawn all over the map and you escort them back to camp) from the same 3 overpowered mobs that were always attacking them. Although I suppose on that last one it was better with a group, but alone I couldn’t do a thing to save Pact soldiers.

I really liked the jumping puzzle adventure, which was unfortunately only available either during the night or the day, I can’t remember. It’s not a huge puzzle or anything, it’s all available right in front of you in a compact location, but collecting 15 bugs requires some pretty delicate jumping at times so it was definitely looking like a challenge. I didn’t want to spend too much of my limited time on it so I didn’t complete it but I can’t wait to take a real crack at it.

The other adventures I didn’t like as much, well, Lethal Vantage wasn’t even available for some reason. The other was in a pit in the south of Brink, you’d enter through a door collect some salvage, which wasn’t hard, and return it through the door. I don’t think I grasped the full measure of the adventure, why it was supposed to be hard or what the full challenge was supposed to be. I tried it a couple times and stopped. Celeste from Guild Wars Reporter said she found it addictive, but that was not my impression.

As for the revenant. I found myself settling in to the weapon skills pretty well, especially the mace/axe combo. Really like the blast finisher and the constant area swiftness I was putting down. I mean I’d like it more if I had a mount rather than going out of my way to put swiftness on myself every 10 seconds but whatever. If there’s something I don’t like about revenant it’s probably how I didn’t like how I had to switch my Legend in order to deal with certain things. It’s probably just down to a lack of options but I didn’t like Mallyx and I didn’t like my heals or my options for condition removal. Because you can switch over your legend and essentially get two heals, both heals end up feeling pretty crappy. I’d rather just have one decent heal, but that’s me.

Speaking of mounts. There were numerous encounters with people riding beatles. So if beatle riding isn’t a mastery I’m going to be pissed.

In the end it was beautiful and fun, and typical Arenanet design, but I did have one major quibble. The pathing is very directed. In the rest of the game you come to a mountain and you have a few choices. You can go through the mountain, over the mountain, south to go around, north to go around. Here there is a lot less of that. The cliffs mean instant deaths, there’s no coming back, for the most part, if you fall of the side. The paths go in one direction and you can’t leave them as much. It’s different, so I’m okay with this for Verdant Brink but I hope this isn’t going to be the same way with every map.

And I hope all this talk Arenanet had of the floor of the jungle, the canopy and whatever the other biome was comes a bit more to fruition because I’m not really impressed so far.

But it’s early days. Speculation has HoT coming out in Q3. I’m sure Arenanet can do a lot in a short amount of time, look at what the Living World team was putting together with only around 20 people. I wish the entire zone had been available to play, with more merchants, vendors, flavour, events, but hey it’s a beta and they were probably just testing out the event chains.

Lackadaisical Nomenclature

May 20, 2015 at 10:38 pm | Posted in Guild Wars 2, mmorpg, PvE | 1 Comment
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Arenanet has updated Lion’s Arch to show a rebuilding effort getting underway. Unfortunately it’s been over a year since Lion’s Arch was destroyed and I am one among many who are a little annoyed that this vibrant living world thing has left Lion’s Arch completely stagnant for so long. At this stage LA has been in ruins almost as long as it was not. While I’m happy to see signs of life, I feel like the blog post and survey were lacking.

For one the survey itself is just utterly devoid of creativity. These are the options we have to choose from? We play in a fantasy world filled with magic and we can fart confetti while transformed into river drake hatchlings but I can’t get any creative suggestions for a place name?

The first question concerns renaming the canal ward. City Central has no personality, has no history, and could not be more broad in it’s description. Commodore’s Quarter fares slightly better I suppose in that it reflects the city’s leadership position and history. King Doric’s Court on the other hand makes no sense whatsoever, while it reflects lore, why would pirates name a part of their city after the royal line of kryta which abandoned Lion’s Arch and moved to Divinity’s Reach? So we’re left with one hilariously safe option.

I chose: Commadore Quarter
Prediction: Commodore Quarter
Why: It’s the only one that even makes sense.

Question 2 leaves no doubt that they really want us to pick specific answers. Graidy’s Lighthouse is a reference to an NPC that died during the Battle for Lion’s Arch. That’s fine I guess, but it shines in comparison to Beacon Point. Get it? Shines? Like a lighthouse? Kind of like how Beacon Point is just another word for lighthouse? Clever! I won’t use as much sarcasm to describe how generic I think Phoenix Roost is.

I chose: Phoenix Roost. (I hated the others)
Prediction: Graidy’s Lighthouse
Why: People like the sentimentality of Graidy’s story.

We literally get only 2 terrible options for question 3. Lion’s Court and Festival Plaza. Putting aside Arenanet’s lackluster updates to festivals of late, putting aside that they ignore some of the other cities quite a bit and this makes it sound like that will continue, putting aside that Lion’s Court is the *current name* of that location and thus even less creative than you might have originally thought, isn’t Festival Plaza just way too on the nose? Maybe we should rename Lion’s Arch to Pirate Bay, or Fort Marriner to Fort Fort.

I chose: Lion’s Court
Prediction: Lion’s Court
Why: Who in their right minds feels Festival Plaza is a great name for a festival plaza?

We get to choose amongst 3 boring ass names for an airbase in Lion’s Arch for question 4. There’s Martial Aerodome, which denotes the military and an aerodome. Great. Lion’s Arch Aerodome, more of that patented Arenanet creativity that we saw with such naming successes as DragonHunter. Finally, Apex Aerodome, you know, because it’s up. Oh and forget about any possibility of not including the word aerodome because screw you guys. Not to go on too long about this but how hard is it to come up with some more creative ideas?

I mean it’s Lion’s Arch and it’s an airbase right? So here’s a little stream of thought. We’re thinking flying and we’re thinking lions and we get griffons. So maybe griffon aerodome or maybe something that reflects fighter squardrons from World War II like the Fighting Griffon Aerodome only let’s make it less high school football and more fantasy and change that to uhm, what were those griffons from Guild Wars 1 that everyone hates? Roaring Ethers. So maybe Roaring Griffon Aerodome. I include Aerodome because you know, apparently it’s not off the table.

I chose: Lion’s Arch Aerodome (at this point I had given up)
Prediction: Apex Aerodome
Why: You know, because it’s up.

The final question is about the replacement of the remembrance wall. Do we replace it with Theo Ashford Memorial? His character wasn’t really fleshed out so I’m not sure that name would evoke anything. Field of the Fallen has a nice sentiment but isn’t overly inspired. Forever Memorial just seems like a tangentially related word stuck with memorial.

I chose: Field of the Fallen
Prediction: Theo Ashford Memorial
Why: Again the sentimentality.

This was an interesting opportunity for Arenanet and I feel like they just flubbed it all up. They could have involved the writers, maybe asked for suggestions, maybe a contest, I mean if you’re going to involve the community go full tilt don’t throw some half-assed names up on survey monkey.

And the blog post itself. Argh. Where are the details? No release date, no suggestion of whether it might be released with Heart of Thorns or not, nothing on whether it comes with a new living story update and nothing about further Living Story updates period. But hey if you guys want to plan your own little community events to keep yourself busy I’m sure Arenanet would think that is awesome! Don’t let the complete lack of a date keep you from organizing hundreds of people to show up to your community event to celebrate the new Lion’s Arch!

My Quaggan Aviator Mail Carrier Arrived

May 5, 2015 at 6:30 pm | Posted in Guild Wars 2, mmorpg | Comments Off on My Quaggan Aviator Mail Carrier Arrived
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A number of community people were sent out a load of shirts, lanyards, pins and whatnot from Arenanet recently and I was among the happy chosen. I received two shirts and a lanyard.

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I am being bribed to adore Guild Wars 2 and I am LOVING it.

Of course I wasn’t the only one to get anything. Relics of Orr (who’ve had major shakeups with their website and itunes subs (so you’ll have to resubscribe)) got some things as well. Spirit sent me a photo of the stuff they got while we were gushing about it in private like a couple of little girls.

ROshirts

DragonSeason is having a contest which ends pretty soon, the first of more to come, where they give away some of what they got.

Due to my relationship with Guild Wars Reporter I know they got some things too and are planning a giveaway of some type soon, or at least before the expansion. Check out my latest with them, episode 147.

And a lot of other people got things too, Verene of course tweeted about hers.

I’m a little jealous that everyone got theirs at least 2 weeks before me but yay free swag! Ugh I just said swag.

I have to admit I’m mighty tempted to just keep the shirts and lanyard but I might have a contest at some point. What do you guys think?

Thanks Anet!

Brink of Beta

March 30, 2015 at 4:38 pm | Posted in Guild Wars 2, mmorpg, PvE | Comments Off on Brink of Beta
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gw2demo

As one of the few, the proud, the loyal few, I was invited to the recent Heart of Thorns beta stress test. It wasn’t exactly a huge event, we were confined to two small areas. You also get to do the very first story instance of the expansion.

I created a revenant without thinking about it too much. We could only choose human, there is no new race with the expansion, so it’s not like I could customize my feather colours or beak length. So I didn’t really take any time with adjusting my human and just jumped right in.

Very quickly I was exposed to one of the features coming up in Heart of Thorns, player dialogue. My character actually speaks! To be honest it was actually quite confusing. My first thoughts were, “who’s speaking, why do they sound so familiar? That sounds like a human. Oh shit, that’s me! They’re adding player character dialogue, I forgot.” It felt so unconnected, other worldly, because it had been so long since I had identified with the human male voice. But I’m sure it won’t be long before I get used to it again.

The story showcases the new distrust of sylvari, and a rescue mission to find captured pact troops. I liked the voice acting and the setup of the story instance, but what they really wanted to show off was that boss fight. Few of the original personal story boss fights were engaging. Usually made up of a lot of straight forward circle strafing (I now love the phrase ‘straight forward circle strafing”) combined with larger health pools and numerous mobs. This boss had mechanics, a bit of strategy, the newish Area of Effect circles. It was all tuned down so you could get by it without too much trouble, but I’m hoping each personal story instance has that sort of attention paid to it.

After the boss fight you’re deposited onto a plateau looking down upon the bulk of the area you have access to, a vantage point from which you can snipe at the mobs from events below. I really like the visuals of the sniper rifles but I was a bit more eager to get down to the action and start using revenant skills.

So I participated in various events, mostly just the Arenanet brand “Kill stuff!” motif. One event did have a very slight change in that it had you collect bombs and run over to the base of a large mordremoth vine to plant it, it didn’t require me to give it to an npc or hit any buttons just move to the general vicinity. It surprises me that even small changes can alleviate the wear of familiar event types.

Unsurprisingly the hammer on revenant feels a lot like hammer on guardian or warrior, at least to me. Where things really got interesting in my opinion were the utility skills, the profession mechanic, the elite. They were useful and even integral in some situations in the demo, and they were what made the revenant fun. I’m not a big fan of ground based targeting or the slow feeling of swinging a hammer around so I was definitely concentrating on changing legends around and spamming my elite dwarf skill that apparently has no cooldown.

I liked the wyvern fight, it was a touch easy and too long but Arenanet have acknowledged that it was adjusted to be easier for the demo and basically unfailable, if that’s a word. I would like to see it with a bit more challenge, slightly less health.

Ultimately the demo is tiny and not a good example of what the expansion will be like, but as this was a stress test and the instances were jam packed I think it served it’s purpose.

A few bonus thoughts.

– I noticed that both sessions I was put into an instance entirely made up of people from Northern Shiverpeaks and nobody from other servers. Probably the result of the nature of the demo/instance but I wonder if any changes to megaservers are in order for the expansion.

– I noticed a lot of Plated behemoths in the inaccessible areas of the instance. Like a lot. I think I wrote about something like this.

– I noticed a new type of gatherable mushroom, so, new cooking recipes. Which is no surprise, I mean, obviously.

– Pocket raptors are so cute!

– Ran into some ancient sapling nodes, elder wood, mithril as well.

– I extensively tried out axe and mace as well for revenant but hammer definitely felt, to me, more put together. Certainly hammer as a ranged weapon was pretty much my only option during the wyvern fight. Not particularly viable to melee that thing.

– Definitely enjoyed the Jalis more than Mallyx for my legend. At least in the context of the tiny demo Jalis felt way more useful. Maybe just my personal style.

– I had extra mastery points but I couldn’t spend them, even though I heard other people having no trouble investing in mastery lines. I don’t know what the deal was.

– I did not participate in the Lethal Vantage adventure. Probably should have. I did run through the area and it’s much smaller than I thought it was going to be.

– Looked through the fractal mastery line and while I did not find any details, the hints/descriptions of what they entailed were intriguing at the time, however I’ve completely forgotten what they were.

– Arenanet sure were trying to jam large numbers of people into closed off instanced boss fights. *cough*

– The revenant themed armour and weapons look pretty wicked.

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